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Helping telecommuters avoid work-related injuries

April 26, 2021
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Are a growing number of your workers punching in from home? You’re not alone.

In fact, Colorado has one of the nation's largest percentage of work-from-home employees, with 8.6% of the state's workforce telecommuting. Boulder leads the way with 14.9%, followed by Broomfield with 9.4% and Denver with 8.2%.

The COVID-19 pandemic, advances in technology, and employers' desire to save money have accelerated this trend.

The benefits of working remotely include: 

  • lower absentee rates
  • decreased carbon footprint,
  • fewer accidents during daily commutes
  • And increased job satisfaction. 

Plus, employers spend less on real estate and gain more productive employees.

But working remotely can still pose hazards. Lacking oversight, telecommuting can result in injury at work.

Instituting telecommuting guidelines, with a focus on employee health, helps avoid work-related injury and ensures employees stay as safe at home as they would in the office. Start with these suggestions:

1. Put remote work agreements in writing

Make sure both parties understand expectations and what safety standards to follow when working remotely.

2. Institute remote work hazard assessments

Remote workers should conduct a biannual hazard assessment based on a standardized checklist.

3. Keep a portable fire extinguisher handy

Most homes store extinguishers in the kitchen, if they have them at all. Have remote workers place one at their workstation in case of emergency.

4. Provide remote work equipment, training

While remote workers may prefer to relax on the couch with their laptop, this can trigger back and neck issues, shoulder, wrist, and hand problems, or another work-related injury.

Provide highly adjustable task chairs, quality keyboard and mouse options, and adjustable-height monitors for laptop users working remotely.

Have employees perform an ergonomic self-assessment of their workstation using Pinnacol's online office ergonomics training video. Or provide them with proper workstation setup and layout resources.

5. Move computers away from heat sources

Overheated computers can malfunction, lose data and, in the worst-case, start a fire. Require the use of surge protectors, too, just as you do in the office.

6. Clear floors of hazards

With no supervisor to regulate them, workstations may become messy. A remote worker may sustain an injury at work by tripping over a computer cord or even Legos their child left out while playing nearby. Advise telecommuters to clean up daily just as they would at the office.

7. Avoid eye strain when working remotely

Working on a computer located near a large window or reading paper documents in a dark basement can cause eye strain.

Review Pinnacol's Office Ergonomics Workstation Tips for guidelines on proper workstation setup, layout, and lighting. A desktop task lamp can provide sufficient light for workers reading a lot of paper documents.

Questions about workers' compensation or employee health? 

Contact us at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.

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